Today, Sports Illustrated made its big leap into digital video with a new platform called 120 Sports.
A joint venture funded by Time Inc., Major League Baseball, and the National Hockey League, the network is being billed as a "best-in-class sports destination" designed to deliver "breaking news, opinion and analysis from reporters with access; longform journalism; video storytelling; and riveting photography to fans on the devices they use the most." MLB.com says it's "a new world of sports," and a "game-changer for fans."
So, what does a new, game-changing platform built for sports enthusiasts look like? Well, a lot like ESPN and Fox Sports—which is to say, mostly two-minute clips of dudes sitting around in chairs, having opinions and sometimes reading tweets out loud.
Yes, it's so far indistinguishable from every Around the Horn barstool knockoff out there—though this is expressly designed for short attention spans. That said, you probably don't need to reinvent the wheel here, and having support from the leagues themselves could help loosen ESPN's decades-long chokehold on the industry.
Now there are some interesting features that could give 120 Sports some legs. Starting at 6 p.m. tonight, the platform will jump into an ongoing live broadcast for eight hours a day that fans can either watch in real time or trace back through a featured called "timeline." Trending stories—or whatever people light up about on Twitter—will also be surfaced in a "trending" section. And the platform is designed to learn your viewing habits over time, meaning it can filter out all the crap you don't really care about.
The real-time aspect, though, is where 120 Sports seems most promising. Say you learn about a no-hitter in progress on Twitter: You could ostensibly fire up the iOS app (free in the App Store today, with an Android version slated for mid-July), tune in, and join the 120 Sports' hosts mid conversation to see what everyone's talking about. All the unplanned, off-script stuff is where things could get interesting.
"120 Sports has been years in the making," 120 Sports president Jason Coyle said in a statement, "and as digital media consumption continues to grow, the time is right to launch a network that provides sports fans with a new way to consume their sports news and entertainment."
That new way apparently means on computers, tablets, and phones. But we'll see where this goes; a little competition is always a good thing. Check it out here.